EC biofuels policy in disarray after damning report

18 January 2008 12:56  [Source: ICIS news]

PARIS (ICIS news)--Increasing the use of biofuels will have only a minor impact on climate change, according to a leaked European Commission (EC) report obtained by the press on Friday.

The EC is expected on 23 January to set a new 10% target for biofuels in transport fuels by 2020, and the report from EC scientific institute the Joint Research Centre (JRC) was meant to give scientific backing to biofuels’ impact on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Instead, JRC scientists said that the cost of producing biofuels in sufficient quantities would far outweigh any benefits they might bring.

Meeting the 2020 target for biofuels could cost EU governments as much as €65bn ($95bn), the JRC report said, adding the “uncertainty is too great to say whether the EU 10% target will save [GHG emissions] or not”.

It added that “biomass saves much more fossil fuel and GHG emissions in other sectors” and that biofuels would not contribute to improving Europe’s security of energy supplies because of the high costs involved in producing them in sufficient quantities.

“Using the same EU resources of money and biomass, significantly greater [GHG] savings could be achieved by having only an overall target instead of a separate one for transport,” it added.

An EC official said that the report - an internal document for information only - was not a “scientific, peer-reviewed report”, and that the EC had reviewed many other reports in drawing up the biofuels strategy “which showed the positive impact of biofuels on tackling climate change”.

Environmental groups, concerned about the impact the EU’s biofuels policy could have on the sustainable use of land, said that the report showed the flaws in the EC’s proposals.

“The EU should abandon biofuels and use its resources on real solutions to climate change,” said Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe, while Frauke Thies of Greenpeace EU said that “there is a much better use of biomass in the electricity and heating sectors” and that “the 10% transport target should be dropped”.

However, the EC spokesman said that sustainable biofuels were “the only economically viable solution to reducing the transport sector’s almost total dependence on fossil fuels”.

For some groups, however, the EC’s expected proposals do not go far enough: the European Biodiesel Board said it wanted a target of 14% for transport as the “ideal basis for the promotion of biofuels”.

Bookmark Simon Robinson's Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels

By: Chris Jones
+44 20 8652 3214

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